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USA Road Trip - 7 things I hate about the USA

Updated on July 21, 2012

One thing that really annoys me is when someone comes to my country on a visit and then tell me how we should run the country. After more than 2 months on the road I am afraid I cannot help myself!

Here goes with apologies to my USA friends –I hope I still have some after this:

1. Driving on the city highways in every big town where everyone seems to know exactly where they are going (because they do) and I don’t (because I usually don’t have a clue). Give me small town USA were if someone is waving it is probably a friendly greeting! My worst nightmare is a sign on a full, four lane, 60 miles an hour highway, saying: “exit to Waterfront 400 feet to the left”, when I am carefully hugging the right lane which is for “slow moving vehicles”. The next exit is either left or right in 3 miles to who knows where?

2. RV camping – now if you are going to travel the country in a second home with kitchen, bathroom, sitting room and two bedrooms, all with air-conditioning and add a washing machine, dishwasher and dryers, then please don’t call it camping. If you camp you actually have to get out and smell the fresh air and do a campfire and get bitten by the mosquitoes and no-see-ums. What really bugs me, so to speak, is when everyone at a State Park camp ground has settled down in the evening and are peacefully sitting around their camp fires and a huge RV drives in because he could not get into the nearest RV Park or is too “snoep” (cheap) to pay the $38 for full hookup and then after reversing with much effort and shouting from his significant other, starts up his noisy generator to keep everything going that generators do. Gone is the peace and quiet, as Mr. and Mrs. “Comfy Campers” sit back in their lounge chairs to watch TV, while the pre-packed meal is being heated in the microwave.

On at least two occasions this really happened. Audrey had to restrain me from going to Mr. RV and inviting him to come and sit at the campfire while Mrs. RV switches the generator on and off – so that he can realize what he is doing. We avoid RV camps like the plague, in spite of their heated swimming pools, because firstly, we real campers are looked down on as second class citizens by the RV crowd - they simply don’t allow us onto the R.V. “camping” grounds and secondly, who wants their view of the highway and train line blocked by the surrounding “second homes”. Also the smell from the nearby sewerage dump station and the garbage area is quite off-putting. Just wait a moment, I want to pop over to that RV over there and see if they have the latest golf scores!

3. The design of toilets. There must be some USA law concerning the building of toilets which states that they must be open for at least a foot off the floor and six feet above the floor. This gives them a wonderful open room feeling with everyone else washing hands, using the shower etc, able to see at least your feet and pants on the floor and hear everything that is going on with amazing clarity. The other day, as I prepared to sit down, I was amazed to see a small head and two big eyes looking up at me from below. Not sure if it was what he saw or what I said that made him disappear, but disappear he did! The problem with someone who was brought up in a society where a “Private” meant private, is that it becomes difficult to go! You either have to wait until no one is around and then post a notice/guard at the door, or not go at all, with serious consequences on regularity. The toilets were also designed for reasonably small people and so if you cannot find a disabled person’s toilet, which has copious space, it is very difficult getting up without bumping your head on the door.

4. The problem of obesity has only become real to me after my personal trainer on Wii called me “an overweight coach potato” and my weight was judged as obese. In the USA there seem to be many overweight people and some (not a few) very overweight ones. Imagine what my personal trainer would have to say to them?

Supermarkets supply special carts for these unfortunate people to use while they do their shopping and what really amazes me is that often they wear the skimpiest shorts and tops. Every time I go into a supermarket, corner shop, or small town/big town deli, the first thing that greets me from the shelves is a 4 pack of “turnovers”. I don’t know who invented these delicious apple filled pasty type temptations, but whoever it is should be shot at dawn. Trying to persuade Audrey to buy a pack doesn’t often help, even if I argue that I’ll only have one a day for the next 4 days. Turnovers, with a cup of coffee, are what cause the American obesity problem. Perhaps it is just as well that our trip is only six months, else I may be slipping out at night to hike to the nearest shop and then hide the box of turnover under the camping box, but I think the crumbs on my chin will give me away.

5. Tailgating is a traffic offence in the USA and yet I seem to have some overzealous driver sitting on Matilda’s rear bumper for most of the trip, making me extremely nervous and wanting to slam on my brakes. How road rage gets the better of one’s Christian fruits of the Spirit! (i.e. patience! See Gal. 5:22). Some may argue that it is because we are travelling too slowly, and there is some merit in that argument, but even if you are travelling at 55 miles per hour, as the signs legally permit, you seem to be the only one keeping remotely to this speed. The long line of impatient drivers behind you, with either a bored or angry look on their faces, testifies to this.

Audrey says “just ignore them”, but how do you ignore a huge 1000 ton truck with twenty Cedar logs cut from the Forest near Redwood National Park, on a narrow winding Oregon road, when you at the same time are peering through the mist and drizzle for an obscure turnoff to the next State Park! I ask you with tears in my eyes; just give me twenty yards space - that will help with my aching neck muscles and white knuckles and blinding headache. Where is the traffic officer that should be pulling all tailgaters off the road for the mandatory $300 fine that is posted along the road? It was with perverse joy when yesterday we saw a couple of speeding cars being ticketed after they had passed us at high speed on the 70 miles an hour highway 90 between Seattle and Spokane.

6. Automation: - everything is on automatic! Wash your hands and the water goes on and off automatically just so when you dry them. Approach the doors of a shop and they open and close automatically. Use a urinal or toilet and the thing flushes automatically, occasionally with bad timing I may say. Sometimes I would just like to turn on a tap and flush the toilet when I am finished. The other day I approached a drinking fountain and could see no knob to press or handle to turn and so my mind went into automatic mode - there I stood with my mouth open grinning at the fountain in great, but unfulfilled expectation until a little boy (not the one from the toilet) walked by and with a giggle pushed a hidden knob. I ask you with tears in my eyes – what is the world coming to?

7. The weather in the USA is extreme to say the least. We have been very fortunate on this trip and the only problems we have had so far have been 100 degree plus temperatures at the beginning, and then some big thunderstorms. We, however, know the extreme cold weather is coming and will catch us. This country in one of extremes; when it gets hot, it can get very hot! Yesterday on the plains of Washington State we already felt a little of the cold, remembering as we head East that it is September and winter is fast approaching. As we do so, we will be joining the birds (just saw two huge flocks of Canadian Geese honking their way over - wonder who they are honking for?) as they head towards Florida and Texas for the winter. We, like the birds, have enjoyed the summer up north but realize we need to start moving to warmer climes for winter.


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    • Johan Smulders profile image

      Johan Smulders 5 years ago from East London, South Africa

      Thanks for your observations. We did our 6 month trip and loved it. America is a great country to travel in and the people were fantastic. Do a trip, you won't regret it.

    • debbiepinkston profile image

      Debbie Pinkston 5 years ago from Pereira, Colombia and NW Arkansas

      Johan, I got a kick from your Hub. Is the map in the photo the route that you took on the road trip? I must say that it was very ambitious and even as an American I wouldn't try to undertake such a long trip. After such a long trip it's no wonder that you aren't fed up with more things than you mentioned!

      The one point I want to speak to is the obesity you have observed in this the land of plenty. Too much plenty. I get thoroughly irritated when I go to Walmart and can't seem to get through the isles because everyone else seems to be on a scooter, stopped in front of most everything that I'm trying to find. In one small town in Arkansas I counted twice as many people on scooters as those who were actually walking and pushing a cart. THAT is scary! And most of the people on scooters were only on the scooters because they were so obese that they could not walk, probably their knees, hips, ankles and backs have given up under all that weight. It also scares me to see how people go shopping in their pijamas, house slippers, short shorts, and other attire that leave very little covered and way too much hanging out. PLEASE do us all a favor and cover up that fat, my eyes don't need to see that much of your body and my mind doesn't need that memory.

      I'm not thin by any means but what fat I do have, I keep covered out of respect for myself and for others. No one wants to see it!

      Thanks for shedding some light on life in the U.S.A. from a visitor's perspective!

    • Johan Smulders profile image

      Johan Smulders 5 years ago from East London, South Africa

      Good idea, sounds better than a bucket!

    • Gill Harris profile image

      Gill Harris 5 years ago from South Africa

      We are still 'young' relatively;) and we like to camp but I must say that the thought of the pack up and go convenience of RV'ing has its attractions! Like the compromise of solar panels and battery bank. If you do it right it can even solve your loo problem....I really don't see that you have any other choice but to go back and try it that way (I understand that another 6 months in the States will be really hard for you, but you can think about it as being for a good cause: - hub research:) - and then we can read your posts on the comparitive studies. Cool idea hey?

    • aviannovice profile image

      Deb Hirt 5 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Johan, the 7 things that irritate you irritate most of us in the US, as well. Were those geese looking for me?(grin)

    • WillStarr profile image

      WillStarr 5 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      We also have tents that we use when we are four-wheeling. We do it all.

    • Johan Smulders profile image

      Johan Smulders 5 years ago from East London, South Africa

      I would love to have an RV but as a retired school teacher we tent camp and actually enjoy it for what it is! Keep up the good work with the solar power!

    • WillStarr profile image

      WillStarr 5 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      Boy, howdy!

      We have an RV, but we rarely use the generator since we installed solar panels and a battery bank.We spend most of our time outside enjoying the country, but we do like the convenience of an RV. I did my tent time when I was young!

    • Gill Harris profile image

      Gill Harris 5 years ago from South Africa

      What a fun read.

    • Rochelle Frank profile image

      Rochelle Frank 5 years ago from California Gold Country

      I've lived in the U.S. all my life and have to heartily agree with your observations, especially about the people "camping" with noisy generators.

      I do believe that the logging trucks do not ever unload or load up with new logs-- I think there is a fleet of them that continually drive back and forth to annoy or entertain the tourists. I have seen passing each other, going opposite directions on the highway, which makes little or no sense.

      Your map seems to indicate that you skipped California. Too bad, if this is so. It would have given you twice as much material to complain about.

      Good article-- It is always nice to have an 'outsider' confirm the validity of our favorite annoyances.